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Conservative Party Conference
For the Conservative Party Conference
"Our Vision For Education" - Dayton Highlands, Day 1

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to start today by telling you a story about a young boy. He was called Alex Campbell, and he was born to a nurse and a factory worker in a left behind town. He was from one of those families that nothing good was ever expected to come from, and if ever you did heard their name mentioned, it almost certainly wasn’t good news. His father was absent most of the time, out drinking mostly, for which the family was grateful, because it was worse for them when he was around, whilst his mother was very unwell, leaving his sister to care for him. His father was in an accident at work, which killed him, and left the family destitute. They moved in with relatives to cut costs, and as Alex grew older, he had to take on more responsibility. By 14, he was out working, bringing home what little he was paid for his mother and sister. Things looked grim for him. People said that he had no prospects, that he’d end up like his father, that boys like him couldn’t achieve anything. But there were two things that he had that his father didn’t: he had a will, and he had a way. Alex had a will to get himself out of the situation he was in, and he had a way out: through this country’s fantastic education system. Through the work of fantastic and dedicated teachers and the support of his friends parents when there was none to be found at home, he achieved the best results out of any of his family, and then, thanks to the tuition fees reforms under David Eccles as Education Minister, he became the first in his family to go to university. He graduated, changed his name, and found the ability to stand tall on his own. And now, he dedicates his life to making people’s lives better, to help them like others helped him.

I know Alex’s story well, because I was Alex, and that was my story. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the education system that we have in this country has saved my life, and it brings me immense pride to stand in front of you today as Education Secretary. It was under the previous Prime Minister that I first took on this role, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Masters for first giving me the opportunity to make a major difference in the education system. I wish him well in his continued recovery. In the past year, the government has made large strides in the domain of education, starting with last year's budget, in which we covered all requests for new staff in education, creating over 5000 new teaching jobs and making sure that our schools are adequately staffed. As well as bringing new people into the teaching profession, we have instituted a pay increase for all those employed in the state education system, to make sure that our primary, secondary, and nursery teachers are all covered. And finally, and most personally important to me, we have made an increase in grants per university student. The ability to go to university for free in this country is something sacred to many of us, and something that should be a basic right. There are some who may say that this is not a sustainable course of action, and that to fund education further, the introduction of tuition fees may be necessary. I’ll say this now: as long as I am Education Secretary, and as long as this government is in power, education will remain free at the point of delivery, and there will be no introduction of tuition fees.

The other achievement of the government so far has been the passing of the Parental Involvement Act, establishing a parent council in every school in the country, and allowing parents a greater say over their children’s education, allowing parents, teachers, and education authorities to work together to improve the quality of education in schools across the country. However, I can’t, and won’t, lie: this Act has proven controversial with certain elements: particularly the Labour Party and the National Union of Teachers. I won’t dwell on them too much but I think it is important to point this out, and I direct this to any parents of schoolchildren watching at home: Labour may claim to be on your side, but they’re not. When the government tries to put power back in your hands, they oppose it. When the leader of the NUT insults you, they stand by idly, afraid that the unions will crack the whip once more. And when the NUT strike over this, robbing your child of precious time in school, they work with them hand in hand. Indeed, straight from the horse’s mouth: Mr McAvoy has said that Calvin Ward supports them 100%. They may say it’s a tired old stereotype, but it’s one based in fact: Labour and the unions are working hand in hand. There is a clear difference between Labour and the Conservatives: whilst they consider  parents to be disruptive harridans, we know the truth - that they are hard working and dedicated people who only want the best for their children. Those are the facts here.

The fact also is that although we have achieved much, there is much that we have still to achieve. We have a vision, and we have a way of achieving it. We have a year and a half to the next general election, and in that time I believe that we will push through our new agenda. What is this new agenda? Well, like all good policies, it can be summed up in three snappy words: Education For Life. This is our priority for education - to build an education that does not just improve our academic potential, but one that prepares our young people for life, and for the world of work. There are three main ways by which we intend to do that, the first of which is a revamp of the national curriculum. It has been 7 years since the first statutory curriculum was introduced by Kenneth Baker, and 6 since it came into effect. In that time, things have changed. Although fit for purpose then, we are now heading towards the new millennium, and education in the 21st century will inevitably be different. As 2000 approaches, we intend to improve the national curriculum through a review. By cutting down on the mountain of mandatory material required by law to be taught and changing methods of assessment, we will reduce red tape across the curriculum, and give teachers more power over teaching: because we trust teachers, and know that their professional judgement is a much more valuable thing than anything that the government can prescribe.

Whilst changing what is being taught is a priority, it is also important to place an emphasis on constantly improving the situation within our schools, especially when it comes to behaviour. Current restrictions currently leave headteachers powerless when it comes to discipline. We all know that there are occasions in which a pupil is so badly behaved, so disruptive, that they begin to have a knock on effect on other children’s education. Our schools cannot function if headteachers don’t have the power to deal with bad behaviour. We will make it easier for headteachers to take disciplinary action when it comes to the worst behaved pupils, be that exclusion or expulsion. However, I recognise that often, when a child acts out in school, this can often be for a plethora of reasons. Nobody is born bad, nobody is born a delinquent, and therefore nobody has to go down that road. To ensure that these young people, often with severe behavioural problems, get the help and support they need to get them back on the right track. That is why we intend to create a new type of school. These schools, which will be known as Reform Schools, will be specially created for these pupils with behavioural issues, where they will work one-to-one with specialist teachers and behavioural specialists capable of helping them overcome their issues, get them back on the right track and allow them to enter the mainstream education system once more.

51 years ago, the Butler Education Act of 1944 was passed, one of the greatest progressive achivements of this century. Among other things, it created the tripartite system of schooling which brought free universal education to all British children. Although it was flawed in its execution, the intent of this system, to create three separate types of schools that are suitable to the needs, talents and abilities of their pupils, was a truly visionary one. And it is that idea that drives us still, that pushes this government to reform education for the better. So, with this as our inspiration, we propose the creation of two additional types of schools. The first, Free Schools, are not-for-profit, state funded schools independent from local education authorities. Founding groups including parents, education charities and religious groups, will all be able to apply to found a Free School, receiving a start up grant from the government to get their feet off the ground. They will receive funding at the same rate as other state schools, but will be free from the constraints that local authorities can often bring to schools. This, like the Parental Involvement Act, all seeks to strive towards a vision that I think is common to all of us in this country - to see our local communities, our schools and our children flourish. Free Schools will put the power into the hands of parents, because we know that they know what is best for their child, and we will always defend their right to decide on their child’s education.

The second of these new school proposals is not a new one. Technical schools were one of the most visionary elements of the Butler Act, and one of the more successful elements. These schools were successful despite the lack of support from the government, and the attempts of trade unions to undermine them. However, their reach was limited to less than 5% of the population, due to a lack of support from the government. Imagine what they could have achieved with support from the government. That is what we intend to do, by introducing Modern Technical Schools. These will bring forward that vision from the Butler Act into reality, creating a hub for technical studies with an emphasis on teaching young people technical and practical skills, that will provide a pathway into the world of work and provide them with skills that they need for life. This however, will not be a return to the stressful 11-plus exams, that put an unfair burden on young people and often provided an advantage to more affluent pupils. Instead, new Careers Advisors will recommend pupils for Modern Technicals through a process throughout the first years of high school, creating thousands of new jobs in the process. Our vision for schools is simple - more power to parents and communities, and more support for our pupils.

We must, of course, not neglect our universities as well. Universities are the shining jewel in the crown of our wonderful education system, renowned around the world as the pinnacle of academic excellence. However, it is important for us to maintain these institutions for the future. Our education establishments are indeed remarkable fundraisers on their own, but no educational institution should be reliant on their own funding to survive. Therefore, we will create a permanent endowment fund for British universities to protect their funding for the future.

However, it is important to recognise that as we move towards the 21st Century, education is becoming increasingly lifelong. That is why, along with the Chancellor, I am delighted to announce today the Adult Skills Initiative. This, as part of the Treasury’s Regional Economic Strategy, puts a particular emphasis on giving unemployed adults from industrially deprived areas of the country the skills that they need to gain employment and re-enter the workforce once again. As I said earlier, I grew up in the West of Scotland at a time in which there was high unemployment and industrial decline. When I was a teenager, the only person in my family with a job was myself. I have seen first hand how hard it can be for people to get back into employment after being unemployed for so long. The Adult Skills Initiative seeks to combat this through two routes to an ASI Qualification. We will offer Technology Adaptivity Courses, reaching out to major firms to work with us on this, helping people get acquainted with the new technologies required for the running of a modern workplace. We will also offer foreign language courses, giving ASI students the foreign language skills necessary for work in new emerging and competitive markets. Finally, we will provide job interview training, helping those struggling to find work in a competitive job market succeed in getting a job. 

All of this, I believe, is the crux of what the modern Conservative Party, and what this government is about. Giving power to the people, providing a hand up, not just handouts, and forging a society in which everyone is able to meet their fullest potential. Children, parents, students, adult learners - nobody should have to accept second best when it comes to education in this country, and, together, we can work to improve education further. Thank you, everyone.
A.W. Dayton Highland
Secretary of State for Education and Future Skills
Member of Parliament for Ayr (1992 - present)
Margo Leadbetter
Home Secretary: Day 1

Ladies and gentlemen

I would like to start with a question: what are the hallmarks of a civilized country?

Democracy, allowing people to determine how and by whom they are governed, is one of them.

Freedom, permitting individuals to speak their minds and live their lives as they wish, is another.

Prosperity, creating economic conditions that afford opportunity to all, is perhaps a third.

But none of these things can survive or take root without one critical component, and that is the rule of law.

Law is the foundation on which all else rests. It underpins things that we sometimes take for granted: our right to walk down the street without fear, our right to be secure in our own homes, our right to privacy, and our right to go about our daily business free from unwarranted interference.

The law applies to all. It is a great leveler. The same rights that are afforded to the wealthy are granted to the poor; the same to men, as to women; the same to people of all races. That is why this government has, in all of its legislation, been careful to respect the rights of all people.

And we have extended those rights still further, including to those who cannot speak for themselves. The Animal Welfare Act, which recently passed the House of Commons by unanimous consent, is a piece of legislation that this government is proud to have introduced. It protects pets and domestic animals and cements our status as a nation of animal lovers.

The government hasn’t stopped with domestic animals. Through our Ivory Act, which looks like it will pass in the House of Commons, we are also pioneering the protection of wild elephants by banning the sale of ivory products. It is a small step that will make a very meaningful difference to these majestic creatures and the ecosystems they inhabit.

The opposition has sometimes accused this government of doing little. In a way they are right. We are a Dolittle government, as in Doctor Dolittle. We have used our powers to make life better for animals.

Don’t be mistaken, however, our love of animals does not mean we are soft. On crime and the causes of crime this government is as hard as nails.

Sadly, we do not live in a perfect world. While the vast majority of us are honest, decent, law-abiding citizens, there are some – a very small minority – who opt to take a different course. We are determined to ensure that such people are both deterred and punished.

Tackling everyday crime which makes us feel unsafe is a major focus of this government. We have made extensive investments in our police force, adding almost 3,800 additional officers, 1,216 plain clothes detectives and 572 other police staff in the last budget alone. That means more police on the streets, more protection for local communities, and more resource to investigate crimes.

We are also committed to taking more hardened and violent criminals off the streets, which is part of the rationale behind building new prisons and recruiting more prison officers. People that commit violent acts against others need to be, and will be, removed from society. No ifs, no buts.

We also recognize the need to help those who have done wrong. We want to give criminals, especially violent criminals, opportunities to reform and become productive members of society. That is why we recently increased rehabilitation places by 3,000 and desire to expand this further as resources allow.

These investments are working. The latest data show that all crime is down by 3.1%. In the year before that crime fell by 1.3%. Things are going in the right direction and we remain absolutely committed to reducing crime rates still further so that our people feel safer than ever.

These investments and the reduction in crime they have stimulated are in marked contrast to the reckless policies of other parties. The Labour Party did not think our police or fire services were worthy of a full pay increase. They also forgot to staff fire stations properly. It shows the appalling contempt in which they hold those who put their lives on the line for the rest of us.

And talking of a lack of staffing, who can forget the Liberal Democrat prison policy? This is the party that proposed building new prisons without any staff to run them. Presumably, they think convicts behind bars can run facilities themselves. Such incompetence is so criminal that there really should be a law against it!

But enough of the opposition and their barmy policies. What about the future?

In addition to our continued crackdown on major crimes, we are also acting to reduce other activities which cause serious harm to individuals. I am talking of the Harassment Act which is currently being debated in Parliament. With this legislation, our aim is to protect people from abuse and harassment which can make their lives a misery.

In conjunction with this legislation we are also looking to take action on domestic violence and will be presenting a bill to Parliament in due course. Domestic abuse, which mainly affects women, has no place in our society and this government is taking action to punish those who initiate it.

Increasingly, the threat we face comes not from within but from foreign criminals and terrorists who seek to destroy liberty and democracy by force and the threat of force. We have seen, from the tragic events in Russia, the devastation that such acts can cause. The government swiftly classified the organization involved as a terrorist body. We have also been reviewing our security arrangements and will take whatever measures are needed to keep the people of this country safe.

More police on the streets. Crime going down. An agenda to tackle abuse and harassment. Rehabilitation for those criminals that want to improve their lives. And more prison places for those who can’t or won’t reform. That is the record of this government and it is why the Conservatives can be trusted to uphold the law which underpins the freedom and prosperity we all enjoy.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you to our police, prison offices, law officers, and the emergency services who work so hard to keep us all safe. And thank you for listening.
Mrs. Margo Leadbetter
Home Secretary and Secretary of State for DEFRA
Conservative MP for Surbiton
Day 2
Mr. Chairman,

Roughly six years ago, that infamous wall that separated the world into two opposing systems and kept millions chained in human misery and slavery came down. Since that time, we have, as a nation, entered a new era of relative peace and safety. While certainly there remain perils and dangers, the threat of nuclear annihilation and total war is lower now than at any time in the past fifty years.

As a result, this is a world of opportunities. New markets are opening as democracy and liberal capitalism takes root in the former Warsaw Pact nations. With the need to blunt a massive Soviet invasion gone, Britain and her allies can invest more funds into capital and human development. As old rivalries fade away, we see the possibilities of shared prosperity and collaboration with new partners in a myriad of new arenas.

Yet, Mr. Chairman, this new world is also unpredictable and unstable. In the short time since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Britons have seen local conflicts and civil wars evolve into genocide and other atrocities. Only a short while ago, we witnessed cowardly and evil men use radiological materials to terrorise an entire city and shock the whole world. That city could have just as easily been in the United Kingdom.

So, we find ourselves not only faced with great opportunities, but with incredible and uncertain perils. Consequently, in this time of massive change and instability, Britain must pursue foreign and national security policies that will meet the challenges ahead of us and secure the future for our children and grandchildren. Failure is not an option.

Fortunately, Mr. Chairman, this Conservative Party has never shirked from the obstacles or its love of nation. We have been in challenging times before. And I know our Party can rise to the occasion again and we can steer the ship of state through the world’s storms and calamities.

You see, I remember in 1979, when it appeared that Britain was on the way out, that we were looking into the twilight, preparing for a time when Britain was no longer relevant on the world stage. Our confidence was shattered. Our global position and reputation were not what they had been. They were dark times, Mr. Chairman.

Yet this Party refused to go down without a fight. We knew Britain hadn't thrown in the towel. And this great nation agreed. Under Lady Thatcher and her successors, we reversed the downward trend. We recovered our confidence. We remembered who were as a nation. We said no to the theft of British territory. We stood with our allies to oppose Soviet aggression. We restored Britain’s prestige and reputation on the world stage.

Mr. Chairman, we Conservatives can do it again.

Our vision for foreign affairs begins with the belief that Britain’s interests will best thrive in a stable and law-abiding world. Consequently, we will use every tool in our toolbox to promote democracy, liberal capitalism, and the rule of law – because we strongly believe that more liberty will not only benefit our prosperity and security, but lead to greater prosperity and security throughout the world.

The United Kingdom is a leading participant in world affairs – a permanent member of the UN Security Council, as a member of NATO, the European Union, the Commonwealth, and the Group of Seven, and having 14 Dependent Territories spread across the globe. Accordingly, we will continue to have global interests and responsibilities to ensure stability and promote international law throughout the world. Thus, we must work within our multilateral framework to engage other nations and ensure Britain continues to lead on the world stage. Under the the Conservatives, Britain will stand as a beacon of liberty and prosperity as we continue to use our nation's position and influence to oppose genocide and other atrocities, combat organised crime and terror, support humanitarian relief, and urge greater human rights and economic liberty throughout the world.

As proponents of opportunity and economic liberty, we Conservatives recognise that greater prosperity supports successful liberal democracy which in turn reduces instability and war. Therefore, the Conservative Party must be a zealous advocate for free trade throughout the world. We must pick up the flag of free trade just as we picked up the banners of privatisation and reform in years past. In practical terms, this means expanding the European Union into new markets in Eastern Europe to reduce trade barriers. It means promoting the World Trade Organisation. It means encouraging investment in developing economies and welcoming inward investment here.

As a global leader, Conservatives understand Britain is uniquely positioned to work as a link between our allies across the Atlantic and on the Continent. Therefore, we wholeheartedly reject the notion that we must choose whether Britain is an Atlantic or European nation – we are both, and we can engage with the United States and Canada while also ensuring the success of our partnership with Europe.

Being such a bridge between North America and Europe means ensuring NATO remains capable of accomplishing its mission of security and defence while adapting to new realities, such as supporting peacekeeping in Bosnia, at the same time we continue the development of a rapid reaction forces with our fellow Europeans. Additionally, we cannot forget the role we have in our special relationship with Washington – we provide not just support, but the type of advice only the best of friends can share.

In regards to Europe, Conservatives understand that we can partner with our fellow Europeans without becoming a member of a federal superstate. We reject both the false gospel that urges us to fall into a retreat from Europe and the temptation to join an United States of Europe. We are not anti-European. At the same time, we have not won the hard-fought victories against statism in our own nation to replace it with a new generation of statism from Brussels. 

Mr. Chairman, simply put the Conservative Party must lead on the issue of Europe and we must place Britain into a leadership role within the European Union to ensure that it remains a partnership of nations dedicated to free trade, competiveness, and a flexible single market. 

As we maintain our relationships with Europe and across the Atlantic, Britain must also not neglect the Commonwealth – we share a bond that is irreplaceable and goes beyond ethnicity or culture and reflects shared history and commitment to the values held dear by all Commonwealth members. We recognise that some of our Commonwealth members face significant challenges. As a founding member of the Commonwealth, Britain has a moral obligation to provide assistance when available and requested by our sister nations. A Conservative-led Britain will increase attention on the Commonwealth and assist fellow members in their pursuit of stable, liberal democracies characterised by the rule of law and economic liberalism.

In the pursuit of a safer and more prosperous world for future generations, our vision cannot simply end with foreign policy and the use of diplomacy. Therefore, I would like to submit to you our priorities for defence and national security.

Mr. Chairman, there are two major priorities for this Party. First, we must maintain the liberty and territorial integrity of the United Kingdom and its dependent territories. Second, we must have the ability to pursue our national interests throughout world.

For decades these two priorities dictated a defence policy focused on the Soviet Union's invasion of Europe and a possible nuclear first strike, an existential threat to the existence of free peoples everywhere. With these strategic threats removed, the two priorities require a British military capable of meeting new challenges and being utilised more broadly in promoting our national security.

Consequently, our defence policy is more interwoven than in the part with foreign and economic policies in pursuit of our national security. This means that the use of the military is more likely to be coordinated with our other tools in our toolbox than before. However, it also means that our diplomatic and economic actions and influence are only as successful as our military capabilities are credible. In other words, we Conservatives echo the plea of the statesman of our opposition, Bevan, who asked that Britain's diplomats not be sent naked into the conference room. Our influence and diplomacy is directly related to our military capabilities.

On that note, the Conservative Party will continue to support the recently published Strategic Defence Review. It is absolutely critical that we continue our plans for a 21st Century armed forces. We cannot rely on obsolete ships, equipment, and aircraft to defend British interests. The SDR makes the case for a Royal Navy and Royal Air Force that can project power and keep important trade and supply routes open. It envisions a robust Army that while smaller than during the Cold War, leverages better training, technology, and equipment to make it more flexible and lethal. Our vision for defence policy also requires more training and support for our reserve forces.

Earlier I outlined many of the challenges Britain faces in this new world. Our military has to have the capabilities to meet these challenges. Instability and unrest together with Britain's leadership in a number of organisations necessitate a military capable of both expeditionary security assistance missions and peacekeeping operations. International terrorism requires greater intelligence assets, the ability to project power and deploy quickly, a renewed commitment to civil defence, and more resources to special operations units capable of dealing with these murderers and cowards. And at the same time, we must still retain the capabilities to engage in traditional military operations required by our alliance commitments and desire to protect our territorial integrity.

Simply put, we have moved away from the threat-based planning of the Cold War where our military was tailored specifically to work with our allies to counter Soviet aggression and are in the process of adopting a more capability-based defence strategy where our armed forces are part of a coordinated effort to achieve Britain's national interests and given the resources to meet multiple missions successfully. The end result is a 21st Century armed forces.

Mr. Chairman, we Conservatives find ourselves in government at a time when our nation is at a crossroads once more. We see it in domestic policies, but we also see it in the realm of foreign affairs and defence. The question of what will Britain look like in the next five to ten years, in terms of domestic policies, will shape and determine what the world looks like in the next fifteen to twenty years.

The world needs an United Kingdom that rallies the globe to the side of economic liberalism, free trade, the rule of law, and stability - because as we understand, free and stable nations contribute to a safer world. How disasterous would it be for our nation to abandon her leadership role in the world, to surrender her advocacy of liberty. We would not only face the critcism of current generations, but the condemnation of the generations who have secured our liberty and generations yet to be born.

So, I ask this Conference, will we surrender all that we have fought for since 1979 and all that we hope our nation and world will be in the years to come to another party? Will we shirk our responsibilities as the governing party? No. Never. So, let us renew our commitment to a safer and more prosperous Britain and world during this Conference. Let us remember that Conservative policies are not just in Britain's best interests. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the Prime Minister for his leadership.
Rt. Hon. William A. Harris
MP for Birmingham Hall Green
Conservative and Unionist Party
SOS for Defence 
SOS for Foreign Affairs and Commonwealth Office
Dr Lucy Robert - Chancellor of the Exchequer. Conference speech. Day two.

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“Good morning conference! What a pleasure it is to be addressing you here in Birmingham, one of the heartland cities of the Midlands.

This is, in fact, the first Conservative party conference that I have ever addressed. And my - what an experience it is becoming. This is the second day of what is proving to be an ambitious event that showcases the very best of what we have done, and what we are capable of doing. We’ve got exciting stalls and fringe events, which emphasise the significant importance that the groundroots - you, our members - play in our party, and we’ve already had two fantastic speeches, setting out an impressive track record for education and home affairs. It’s been wall to wall passion about everything from modern technical schools, and forward thinking for universities; to cracking down on crime, and introducing new animal welfare standards. Dayton, Margo - thank you for everything so far, I know you’ll keep doing our party, and this country, proud.

When the Prime Minister asked me to serve as Chancellor of this great land, I was honoured. To have the support of one of the most talented Chancellors for a generation, and also the party that I have supported since I was a teen, is an immensely humbling thing. I’ve been the MP for Canterbury for three years, so my experience by and large has been outside the halls of Westminster. From 1982, I spent a decade reporting on, and later leading, economic development in West Africa, as a journalist and then a microfinancer. I’ve seen what it’s like to be living on the edge, and the difference that governance can make to such situations. To come back from the brink requires personal strength and resilience - but it also requires communities and governments that care. It was my time abroad that leads me, guiding a platform that cherishes giving people the power over their own futures. In a nutshell, that is also what the last sixteen years have been about for this country. Britain has rejected, four times, the socialist yoke, and instead devoted itself to resettling power and prosperity from the old landed class, to the new entrepreneurs, self-starters and hard workers that we have fostered. It is no small task to rework and improve an entire economic system, but Britain has done so valiantly, and is now benefiting from it. This country has reaffirmed that it is not afraid to stand tall in the face of adversity and change. This national characteristic is one that I am deeply thankful for.

And though there are numerous people whose work we must credit for our current period of prosperity, there is one most recent that we must particularly thank. With last year’s highly successful budget, wrongfooting the opposition and keeping Britain’s economy strong, it is because of Harold Saxon that we are going from strength to strength. Economic growth stood at 5% this year, the highest this decade, and inflation was within our target band for 2%. Whilst often abstract figures, these have spilled over into everyday lives. 300,000 fewer people are unemployed than at the same point last year, whilst the average wage shot up by 3%. There is a very real correlation between our policies and Britain’s progress. We are living in unparalleled times. Long may they continue!

But there is, in the opposition, a dark cloud that wants to seize control of the reigns. I believe, as a Conservative believes, that in times of plenty Britain should reap the harvest. Instead, their proposition is to rain on us all, as a party that lurches from economic school to economic school, as their point scoring attempts require. Last year, as ludicrous as it was, Ms Edwards was declared the “heir to Thatcher” by a few overexcited members of the press. But the evidence shows this to be false. You cannot be the heir to one of the greatest Prime Ministers in British history by failing to stand up for Britain, as seen through their opposition to the MOD’s Strategic Defence Review; whilst simultaneously rubishing her record as not being “congruent with responsibility, but rather brutal coldness”, as the leader of the Opposition hailed forth. I ask this: is it ‘irresponsible’ to want everyone to have a good, well paid job? Is it ‘brutal coldness’ to give working families more of their hard earned payslips back? Why is it ‘wrong’ for all British workers to get an average 3% pay rise this year alone? Simply - these policies aren’t wrong, but right. We do not live in times of difficulty, but instead have the opportunity to bask in sunlight. Labour are proposing a return to their winters of discontent. Well I’ll say this: it won’t happen on our watch.

We have, instead of pursuing an endless crusade of chasing public opinion contentment, got down to doing the job. We have spent our time dealing with the issues in public services that need to be tackled. Under our watch, NHS waiting times are down by 10%. There are almost 4,000 extra police on our streets. Over 6,000 new teachers in our schools. And these are all achievements we have obtained in the last year alone - all whilst cutting taxes, to give workers more in their back pocket; and bringing the deficit down. We have balanced the task entrusted to us by voters, and delivered successive budgets that have fought inefficiency and poor service providing. I am hugely proud of what we have already achieved, but I know that we cannot be complacent if we are to keep providing better services, lower taxes and a continued path forward. I am absolutely committed to all three. Though I am not about to do a tell all for the upcoming budget, I can promise you that we are going to continue to embrace business as the backbone of our economy. They have been pivotal in the success of our economy, and I have seen how this has been achieved. To small and medium businesses, I have a simple message - we’ve got your back.

But not only have we been supporting the economy through budgets, we’ve also been doing so by formalising legislation. This year has seen two major acts sail through Parliament, endorsed even by the Opposition parties. We’ve set up the Enterprise Investment Bank, to provide entrepreneurs, startups and small and medium businesses with the access to capital that they need to get going. It is a quadruple win: for SMEs, consumers, investors, and the taxpayer, offering a huge opportunity for sustainable and invigorating investments in British bred companies. And we’ve also enacted new Urban Enterprise legislation, promoting partnerships between businesses and local communities to create better spaces for everyone. We've worked side by side with wealth creator businesses on these innovations, and will continue to do so in the future. When government and businesses work together, it benefits everyone.

And on that basis, I am ecstatic to talk about the government’s Regional Economic Strategy. Yesterday, you heard the Education and Future Skills secretary talk about the first step of this: the Adult Skills Initiative. It will prove to be a vital component of helping those unemployed back into work with the skills, training and experience they need to restart their careers. And as it’s been developed alongside leading businesses in forefront industries, such as technology and media, it is going to be a gold standard in vocational qualifications. I will be announcing the full details of the ASI in the House of Commons this coming week, and I am pleased to announce that a pilot scheme will begin within days.

But we’ve already announced the concept of the ASI. So what’s next? Well this is a conference exclusive: we are going to build a brand new tech industry here in Britain. This will be known as BritTech, and it’s going to radically push our country to the very front of technological innovation and entrepreneurship. We are planning to create a Midland’s tech cradle, which will connect creators and makers at a scale this country has not seen before. In some ways, we have looked at what has worked in this sector internationally, and tried to adapt it for our needs and perspective. In that regard, I will be visiting America’s Silicon Valley in the coming weeks to get an on the ground look at how it operates. But we’re going much further than the American government in terms of fostering innovation. I am therefore announcing that our coming budget will introduce a new three-years-after-launch tax abolition for new homegrown technology firms. And this will also be retrospective: all firms launched in the last two years will pay no corporation tax going forward, until that three year period has expired. We’re freeing up more capital for self investment, and giving these creators a helping hand in a rapidly growing market. There are a number of other key components to this policy, which I will be announcing in due course.

As you will have guessed, my priorities are about giving businesses and citizens power over their own money. I am keen to put you in the driver’s seat. We have done that already through immensely successful schemes like Right-to-Buy, which liberates council tenants to have the power to buy and own the roof over their heads. But part of my guiding belief is that no job is ever done. No scheme is ever ‘good enough’. This is why we are now planning to foster the second great generation of home ownership. It should be fundamentally simple: if you want to own your own home, you should have the means to do it. We Conservatives have already achieved a lot in this regard. More than one million ex-council tenants now own their property, and nationwide home ownership is now over 65%. Don’t get me wrong - that’s one hell of a stat. But I want to do even better. I am announcing that the treasury will launch an immediate review into red tape surrounding house building. And I am also pledging that by 1998 we will have introduce two new programmes to promote home ownership and building. Firstly, we will set aside £300mn to guarantee loans by banks to SME house builders, and secondly we will create a £150mn fund to offer low interest loans to help people put down deposits on a first house. We’re aiming to create a golden age of low price, high quality house building that benefits builders and buyers alike.

And with regards to giving taxpayers greater control over their incomes, I am reaffirming our commitment to cut the basic rate of tax to 20% before 2000, slashing tax dues for millions of middle and lower earners.

And so, I am deeply proud of the achievements we’ve made together. Britain’s economy is dynamic, efficient, meritocratic, and, above all, strong. Britain is a prosperous nation, and we will stop at nothing to make sure every person in this country feels its benefits. We have presented a plan to build on success - now we will put it into action. Politics isn’t some game of Russian roulette - it is one were politicians should be humbled enough to deliver effective and sweeping programmes for everyone, regardless of their position in society. That is what our government is doing, and it is my promise to the people of Britain.

Thank you very much.”
Dr Lucy Robert
MP for Canterbury
Chancellor of the Exchequer

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